Iowa Lawmakers Advance Bills to Allow Firearms in More Places

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- State lawmakers advanced proposed legislation Thursday that would allow gun owners to bring firearms to work or on school property.

Currently, someone with a conceal-and-carry permit cannot bring their firearm to work, if company policy does not allow guns on the premises.

"We have hundreds of thousands of Iowans, law-abiding good Iowans with conceal carry permits who wake up and get children ready for school cannot exercise their second amendment right," Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig.

Schultz said these legislation would allow for Iowans with permits to fully enjoy their second amendment rights.

“I think these are a very good, common sense recognition that Iowans and Americans in general have a right to keep and bear arms, and keep and bear arms during their daily routine throughout the day,” Schultz said.

Such legislation would override some companies' policies that may prohibit firearms on the property. Employees would be able to bring their firearms to work, as long as it is locked in their vehicle.

Some business lobbyists expressed discontent, saying it should be up to the employer's discretion to allow firearms on the property.

“This legislation infringes upon an employer’s private property rights by saying they can’t have a policy prohibiting weapons in their parking lots or on their property," said Brad Hartkopf, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.

Sen. Tony Bisignano, a Democrat, used a personal example in support of the legislation. He said he strives to go to mass before work daily, but cannot bring his firearm to a church.

"Not being able to carry my weapon in my car in the proper way would create an inconvenience for me to go home to get my weapon to go to work where I can carry my weapon," he said.

The Iowa capitol permits gun owners to keep their firearms at their side.

Bisignano's example raised questions from some religious groups at the hearing. The bill would also apply to employees of religious centers and schools.

Community Reaction

Crossroads Shooting Sports Managing Partner Tom Hudson said he thinks responsible gun owners should be able to carry in these situations.

"Protection from law enforcement may be minutes away when you have moments to respond and so not being able to protect yourself and being in a hostile environment or an environment that can turn hostile very quickly that's an individual right that that person should have," Hudson said.

A second, related bill also advanced Thursday. It would allow parents and guardians dropping off children at school to have a firearm on them while in the school drop-off zone or parking lot. They would not be allowed to take the gun into the school property.

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Moms Demand Action Volunteer Traci Kennedy said this particular bill could be problematic.

"Research has shown from 2013 to 2018 on a nationwide basis about 20 percent of gun-related incidents at schools were actually related to an unintended discharge of a weapon. So we are concerned that the presence of a conceal and carry weapon at pick up and drop off or on school grounds does create accidents and opportunity for accidents so that is a concern for us and we don't see that it creates safety," Kennedy said.

Hudson said all of the bills discussed Thursday make sense and could even allow trained, responsible gun owners, to respond or even assist law enforcement in the event of a school shooting or other dangerous situation.

"We've seen time after time again and even in the last 60 to 90 days around the country where a private citizen has come to the aid of law enforcement, where an officer has gotten themself into a situation that he became overpowered. The good guy with the gun. It's happened more than once and it happens almost weekly somewhere in this country," Hudson said.

Kennedy said she doesn't believe these bills would make any environment safer.

"We would really like to see a focus on evidence-based solutions to gun violence here in our state and our community and unfortunately there's just no evidence to support the measures being considered will make us or our children safer."

The two bills only apply to Iowans with a valid permit to carry a weapon. Both bills were approved by its Senate subcommittees, each containing two Republicans and one Democrat. The next step is for the bill to be voted on in its full committee.

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